Many bash Russia for Chechen abuses; few help gay victims

Many countries condemned last spring’s homophobic and murderous anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya, but only five countries have offered to help fleeing gay Chechens.

EUObserver reports:

Only five countries are helping gay Chechens leave Russia

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (Photo courtesy of ABC News)
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov denied the mass arrests of gay citizens, saying that “such people do not exist.” (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

EU countries roundly condemned a witch hunt against gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya earlier this year, but only a few governments are willing to help those fleeing persecution.

According to the Russian LGBT network, an NGO that has been hiding over 60 gay Chechens at secret locations in central Russia, it briefed almost 20 EU countries on the situation in April.

But France, Germany and Lithuania were the only EU countries that agreed to work with the network on the relocation of victims of the anti-gay purge. One source close to the Lithuanian government told EUobserver in May that Canada was also working with Lithuania and the Russian LGBT network on the evacuation.

Tatiana Vinnichenko (Photo courtesy of the Russian LGBT Network)
Tatiana Vinnichenko (Photo courtesy of the Russian LGBT Network)

In recent weeks, one more country, which wants to remain anonymous, has teamed up with the Russian LGBT network – a step that has been welcomed by its representative, Tatiana Vinnichenko.

Vinnichenko told EUobserver that her organisation cannot afford to lobby EU embassies for help. “We are a small organisation with limited resources. It is very difficult for us to find the time to convince foreign governments to help us,” she said. She added that governments had the right to refuse help.

At the same time, the Russian LGBT network doesn’t have many options for what to do with the Chechens it is hiding.

Less than half of those who applied for help with the organisation have fled abroad. Only a handful did so with the help of EU governments, notably by receiving visas for humanitarian reasons.

Persecution report

In late July, the Russian LGBT Network published a report in cooperation with Elena Milashina and Elena Kostiuchenko, journalists with the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who first wrote about the persecutions.

The report builds on testimonies from 33 people and details the horrors they suffered during the purge of gay men in Chechnya.

It says that, in February, the police and security forces had launched a coordinated campaign, rounding up and detaining men whom they accused of being homosexual.

Around a hundred men are said to have been taken away, put into secret prisons and forced under torture to name other homosexuals. This was allegedly a direct order from Chechnya’s president, Ramadan Kadyrov, and under the supervision of high-level Chechen officials.

A dozen men are said to have died.

“There is solid evidence that three of these people were executed by the Republic’s officials or by the relatives of the victim, who were pressured to do so,” the report says. …

The authors appeal to foreign governments to offer asylum to the victims of the anti-gay purge and vow to assist those who step forward and seek justice before the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. …

[Why] have so few followed in the steps of France, Germany and Lithuania?

Refugee fatigue seems to be an issue.

Morgan Johansson (Photo courtesy of Twitter)
Morgan Johansson, Swedish justice minister: We “cannot help everyone.” (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Sweden’s minister of justice, Morgan Johansson, told EUobserver in June that his country didn’t plan on offering visas to enter Sweden and that it “cannot help everyone”. He recalled that 163,000 sought asylum in Sweden in 2015 and that almost 60,000 people were currently waiting for asylum decisions. …

Tanya Lokshina, Russia programme director at Human Rights Watch, told EUobserver … the anti-gay campaign could have been a way to consolidate Ramzan Kadyrov’s grip over society.

“We can’t say for certain, but Chechen authorities may have decided to go ahead with this ‘purge’ so as to consolidate their base of support in the conservative and homophobic Chechen society. They presented it to Chechnya’s residents as an effort to protect the honour of the Chechen people and cleanse the republic from what’s regarded as a ‘stain’,” she said.

“Ramzan Kadyrov has been carrying out regular purges against different groups of undesirables before,” she added, mentioning campaigns against drug users, fortune tellers, Salafi Muslims, suspected insurgent sympathisers, and local free-thinkers.

“He has been able to do that with absolute impunity. He couldn’t possibly expect to get into trouble, especially as LGBT people are treated as second-class citizens in Russia as a whole,” Lokshina said. She argued that despite the respite, gay Chechens are not safe in Russia.

“There is no guarantee that the purge will not resume. And even if no such orders come from high-level Chechen authorities, gay men can still be killed by their families. The threat of honour killings is very real, especially as Chechen officials have been condoning and even encouraging this vile practice.”

For more information, read the full EUObserver article, “Only five countries are helping gay Chechens leave Russia.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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  1. So sickening, how can one kill their own flesh and blood for being who they were born, as they did not choose. Would it be permissible to kill one with downs syndrome, or some type of deformity only because they are different ???

  2. And, the root of our sexuality is irrelevant. A reasonable percentage of the population is bi anyway (bi folks are often very closeted), & they might “choose” or fall in love or have romantic affairs with either sex. It’s consensual sex, and nobody’s business what drive one’s sexuality. Our so-called civilized society is so backward, and could learn from 2-spirit indigenous American tribes. This bigotry & murder is horrendous.

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